Henry Keenan '14, left, with Startup With Purpose co-founder Abhinav Kukreja, one of the Berkeley students who was in Nice, France on the night of a 2016 terror attack.
Henry Keenan '14 Takes Entrepreneurship Lessons to Heart
Above all else, Henry Keenan '14 wants other young entrepreneurs to succeed, no matter what their background may be. Calling upon guidance and collaboration from University of California, Berkley professors and classmates, Keenan founded the Startup With Purpose foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on enhancing entrepreneurial opportunities for the underserved and underutilized talent pools, primarily in the Middle East. Keenan partnered with King's Academy in Jordan – which he attended his senior year of high school – to launch the program last January with a five-day boot camp. The 210 participants included high school and college students from around the world, including Christ School's own Philip Hodges '18. In addition to traveling across the globe to set up more programs in places like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Puerto Rico, Keenan works as a pharmaceutical sales consultant for the MENA region.
Question: How did Startup With Purpose come about?
Answer: I attended a Berkeley study abroad program in Nice during the summer after my junior year and I co-founded the organization in the fall after the 2016 Nice terror attack. I signed up for the program because I thought it would be interesting and I wanted to go to Europe for the summer, but what it really helped me understand was how I could best create and add value in a professional setting, which prompted me to switch out of the business major to focus more on leadership and engineering courses.
Question: I know you attended King's Academy in Jordan for your senior year of high school. Can you explain what it was that you observed in the surrounding people and economy that helped you decide to make it the location for your first pilot program?
Answer: While I was a senior in Jordan it really struck me how the general attitude amongst the students was very different from my experience with Christ School students. In general people were far more entitled and set on certain tracks such as running their parent's business or working in finance rather than just focusing on how they could best add value and pursuing their professional ambitions.
Question: Please outline the next programs/locations that are in the works.
Answer: We are currently finalists in a bid to transform education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, primarily focused on developing entrepreneurial mindsets for grades K-12. We should get a decision by the end of the month. In addition, we also have a program for Kuwaiti Private School participants in March and are in advanced talks with the Kuwait Oil Company to sponsor a program for 1,000 Kuwaiti public school participants in the Fall of this year. Finally, we'll be hosting a program for 250 high school students in Puerto Rico from June 10-14 in San Juan, and we have secured funding for 100 of those participants to be from Puerto Rican public schools.
Question: Can you envision more opportunities for Christ School students like Philip Hodges '18 in one of your programs?
Answer: We were honored to have Philip join us in Jordan; according to the program instructors and mentors he was one of the program's best participants. As of right now, the Puerto Rico program would be the best way for Christ School students to get involved, and I am also working to find ways to bring CS participants back to the Middle East in the near future, although we don't have a specific program in the Middle East at the moment that would be open to CS students.
Question: What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Answer: I don't really have a typical day due to the fact that I'm more or less chasing opportunities as they come up, so I'm often traveling to places like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia to secure a deal for SWP or for my Pharmaceutical work, or I'm at home in Jordan working on content for SWP or doing pharmaceutical research. I also play on an American football team in Jordan, the Amman Vipers. A typical day for me recently in Puerto Rico consisted of visiting 2-3 schools to recruit program participants, meeting with a company such as Puma Energy to raise money for scholarships, and on the final day we even met with Julia Keleher, the secretary of education in Puerto Rico, to recruit public school participants and to find ways to bring entrepreneurial mindset courses to every public school in Puerto Rico.
Question: What are your memories of attending Christ School and how did it prepare you for what has followed?
Answer: I attended Christ School from 8th-11th grade (starting in the Fall of 2009). I remember that I loved being independent, and I was for the most part; however, it was my close connections with my teachers that helped me to learn and to mature more than anything else. Having a structured schedule at Christ School really helped my personal discipline develop and having come to CS from San Francisco and being the only Californian, I learned a new sense of humor and developed a thicker skin, which I believe is one of the more valuable assets I got from attending Christ School.